Afghanistan's Taliban, opposition both claim gains
July 31, 1997
Web posted at: 5:44 p.m. EDT (2144 GMT)
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The Taliban religious army sent
in helicopter gunships on Thursday to battle opposition
soldiers near the Afghan capital. The opposition, meanwhile,
predicted the fall of Kabul was imminent.
The latest battle took place about nine miles north of the
capital, where the two sides have been locked in a stalemate
for the past week. Before that, the opposition had made
spectacular gains, moving quickly through Taliban defenses
north of Kabul.
Kabul will fall "in days," the brother of anti-Taliban
coalition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud told CNN by telephone
from London. Wali Massoud, a London-based Afghan diplomat, is
in daily contact with his brother.
He said the level of recruits now joining the Taliban --
mostly teen-agers from refugee camps in neighboring
Pakistan -- demonstrated the weakness of the fundamentalist
Despite the prediction of opposition victory, however, the
Taliban appeared firmly in control on Thursday, and there
were no signs of a retreat.
The Taliban interior minister said Taliban forces had
captured one village north of the capital and were closing in
"We have taken the town of Gul Dara (19 miles or 30 km north
of Kabul) and we have surrounded the opposition in Mir Batcha
Kot (17 miles or 27 km from Kabul)," said Mullah Khairullah
A Taliban soldier, who gave his name only as Tasatullah, said
four civilians were killed and three were wounded on Thursday
when opposition jets bombing hilltop Taliban positions also
hit a nearby village.
It was impossible to independently confirm the Taliban
Opposition forces, which control the northern third of the
country, want the Taliban to leave Kabul and allow a neutral
force to take control.
The Taliban, who rule the capital and the southern two-thirds
of the country, have refused, demanding the opposition hand
over prisoners of war and embrace the Taliban's rigid form of
Thursday's military developments came on the same day as the
opposition postponed a meeting with United Nations special
envoy to Afghanistan Norbert Holl.
Holl was supposed to meet opposition leaders in their
stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
U.N. officials in the town said that the meeting was
rescheduled for Friday.
Correspondent Peter Bergen and Reuters contributed to this
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